Un|Fixed Homeland, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, 2016 Catalog: Un|Fixed Homeland - Page 26

A Brief History of Migration in Guyana Guyana, a multi-cultural nation of Amerindians, British, Portuguese, Africans, Indians, and Chinese, is the only English-speaking country in South America. In tandem, the country’s religious landscape reflects its dynamic population: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Catholic, among others. Guyana’s location in the northeastern region of the continent in the heart of the Amazon and on the Caribbean Sea, coupled with a history of British colonization shared with nearby Caribbean islands, allows for the nation’s cultural identity as one defined as a hybrid between Caribbean and South American. Beginning in the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, Guyana’s lands were subjected to European explorers and colonists, its territory changing hands among the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and finally, British empire. From the early 1600s to the 1800s, the British utilized the enslavement of Africans in their vigorous pursuit of wealth via sugar production. When slavery was abolished in 1834, the British instituted the system of indentured servitude that lasted until 1917, bringing Indian and Chinese laborers into the colony—a measure that would later define Guyana’s modern multi-cultural landscape and also set the tone for decades of ethnic conflict between Africans and Indians. Often violent and politically explosive, the ethnic tensions fueled and exploited by the British themselves would scar Guyana throughout the 20th century. In 1948, the British Nationality Act gave British citizenship to all people living in its critical questions: How does the photographic medium express the tensions between place and placeless-ness? How can we turn to the photograph to inform and challenge our current framing of the experiences of migration and diaspora, nationality and belonging, immigrant and citizen? What shifts occu